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Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility$
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Nicole A. Vincent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199925605

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.001.0001

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Skepticism Concerning Human Agency: Sciences of the Self Versus “Voluntariness” in the Law

Skepticism Concerning Human Agency: Sciences of the Self Versus “Voluntariness” in the Law

(p.113) 5. Skepticism Concerning Human Agency: Sciences of the Self Versus “Voluntariness” in the Law
Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility

Paul Sheldon Davies

Oxford University Press

On the conception of criminal responsibility in the Model Penal Code, the notion ‘voluntariness’ looms large. Application of the Code presupposes that most adults, including those likely to serve as jurors, know that we are agents who sometimes “determine” their actions and also know when our actions are the results of our “determinations”. If this crucial assumption is false, then the law cannot fulfil its function. The thesis of this chapter is that, in light of converging evidence from various sciences of the self, we are faced with a potent form of scepticism concerning our capacities as agents and, in consequence, the law is indeed defective.

Keywords:   conceptual conservatism, conceptual imperialism, dubious concepts, directives for inquiry, apparent mental causation, forward model of motor control, naïve realism, theory of mind theory, social intelligence, panic system

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